What's Project 2025? Unpacking the Pro-Trump Plan to Overhaul US Government (2024)

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For several months, we received a flood of reader inquiries asking if Project 2025 was a real effort to “reshape America.” Here’s the answer.

Nur Ibrahim

Aleksandra Wrona

Published July 3, 2024

Updated July 5, 2024

What's Project 2025? Unpacking the Pro-Trump Plan to Overhaul US Government (1)

Image courtesy of Getty Images, Canva

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  • Project 2025 is a conservative coalition's plan for a future Republican U.S. presidential administration. If voters elect the party's presumed nominee, Donald Trump, over Democrat Joe Biden in November 2024, the coalition hopes the new president will implement the plan immediately.
  • The sweeping effort centers on a roughly 1,000-page documentthat gives the executive branch more power, reverses Biden-era policies and specifies numerous department-level changes.
  • People across the political spectrum fear such actions are precursors to authoritarianism and have voiced concerns over the proposal's recommendations to reverse protections for LGBTQ+ people, limit abortion access, stop federal efforts to mitigate climate change — and more.
  • The Heritage Foundation — a conservative think tank operated by many of Trump's current and former political allies — is leading the initiative. President Kevin Roberts once saidthe project's main goals are "institutionalizing Trumpism" and getting rid of unelected bureaucrats who he believes wield too much political influence.
  • The Trump campaign's goals and proposals within Project 2025 overlap. However, the former president has attempted to distance himself from the initiative. In a July 5, 2024, post on Truth Social, he wrote: "I know nothing about Project 2025. I have no idea who is behind it. I disagree with some of the things they're saying and some of the things they're saying are absolutely ridiculous and abysmal. Anything they do, I wish them luck, but I have nothing to do with them."
  • In other words, it's unknown if, or to what extent, Trump's campaign is talking to leaders of the initiative. Many political analysts and the Biden administration believe Project 2025 is a good indication of Trump's vision for a second term.

Here at Snopes, the internet's premiere fact-checking site, we believe in unbiased, fact-driven reporting to help guide people's everyday lives. And when it comes to voting in elections, we hold that responsibility high. We call out candidates' mistruths, contextualize campaign claims and pull back the curtain on efforts shaping political parties' agendas. Our hope is to give voters the knowledge they need to mark ballots without any distorted sense of reality. Below is an example of that work — a months-long analysis of an all-encompassing effort to reshape the American bureacracy following the 2024 U.S. presidential election. If you'd like to support this type of journalism,we'd love your help.

Jessica Lee,senior assignments editor,snopes.com

As the U.S. 2024 presidential election nears, U.S. President Joe Biden's reelection campaign has been sending foreboding emails to supporters, invoking "Trump's Project 2025" to tap into anxieties over another four years with Donald Trump in the White House and to raise campaign money.

According to some of the emails, "Project 2025" calls for proposals that would separate "mothers away from their children," a reference to border policies during Trump's administration, or result in "higher housing costs and rampant discrimination."

The Biden campaign is not alone in its concern over the policy initiative. Critics including legal experts and former government employees have described Project 2025as a precursor to authoritarianism — albeit a difficult one to implement — and a wave of social mediapostsare expressingfear over the initiative, calling it a "fascist" and "extremist" plan for Trump to "reshape America." Numerous reports have also called this conservative effort to reshape the government unprecedented in its scale.

But what exactly is Project 2025? Are the messages from critics rooted in fact or fear-mongering? What should people know about the alleged policy plan? Over the past year, Snopes has received a flood of inquiries from readers asking if Project 2025 was real and what it entails, and if American politicians plan to implement it.

Under the leadership of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, Project 2025 is indeed a real, all-encompassing initiative to transform the American bureaucracy if, or when, a conservative president takes over the White House. Project leaders are hoping to put it into motion as early as November 2024 ifvoters elect former President Donald Trump.

Politico once described the policy initiative as an effort to make a "MAGA" conservative government by reshaping how federal employees work, and thecreators themselves have framed it as a push to institutionalize "Trumpism" —that is,Trump's political agenda — at every level of federal government. On Truth Social, a Trump-owned social media platform, users have described it as a return to "constitutional" values.

In June 2024, House Democrats launched a task force to make plans for a potential future in which Project 2025's recommendations could become reality.

The growing interest in Project 2025 coincided with the progression of Trump's presidential campaign. AJune 2024NPR/PBS News/Marist poll found the presidential race to be extremely tight, with Biden and Trump almost tied, echoing a months-long trend of national surveys. (Historically, polls at this stage of campaigns are not indicative of actual election outcomes.)

Leaders and supporters of the initiative declined to be interviewed for this story or did not respond to Snopes' inquiries.

What is Project 2025?

Project 2025 has four parts, according to its website:

  • A roughly 1,000-page document titled "Mandate for Leadership 2025: The Conservative Promise."That report details supporters' proposals for federal departments, as well as their overall agenda for a conservative government.
  • A purported transition plan for federal departments. Project 2025 leaders say they have a 180-day transition plan for each federal agency to quickly adapt to a Trump presidency should he win in November. As of this writing, the contents of that plan were unknown.
  • A new database that aims to fill federal jobs with conservative voices. Spencer Chretien, associate director of Project 2025, once called the online system to screen potential new hires the"conservative LinkedIn." It's currently active on the Project's website.
  • A new system to train potential political appointees. Called the "Presidential Administration Academy," the system aims to teach skills for "advancing conservative ideas" as soon as new hires join the administration. The lessons touch on everything from budget-making to media relations and currently consist of 30- to 90-minute online sessions. Project 2025 leaders say they will host in-person sessions as the election nears.

There's reportedly another facet to Project 2025 that's not detailed on its website: an effort to draft executive orders for the new president. According to a November 2023 report by The Washington Post that cites anonymous sources, Jeffrey Clark (a former Trump official who sought to use the Justice Department to help Trump's efforts to overturn 2020 election results) is leading that work, and the alleged draft executive orders involve the Insurrection Act — a law last updated in 1871 that allows the president to deploy the military for domestic law enforcement. Speaking to the Post, a Heritage spokesperson denied that accusation. (We were unable to independently corroborate The Washington Post's reporting due to its anonymous sourcing and our unsuccessful attempts to interview members of The Heritage Foundation.)

While many of Project 2025's proposals simply need the president's executive order to become reality, others would need Congressional approval, even as the Project seeks to expand presidential authority. In other words, lawmakers would need to write and approve legislation that details the changes to the government's existing structure, or establishes new systems.Come November, voters will choose who will fill435 seats in the Republican-led House and 34 positionsin the Senate.

Key Points of The Roughly 1,000-Page Document

Speaking to Politico, Russell Vought,who served as the director of the Office of Management and Budget under Trump andis now a leading adviser for Project 2025, once described the effort as "more systematic than it is just about Trump," adding, "We have to be thinking mechanically about how to take these institutions over" in reference to federal departments.

Project 2025's document lays out in great detail how supporters want to do that. As of early June 2024, about 855,000 people had downloaded the document, The New York Times reported.

Among its numerous recommendations, it calls for the following (in no particular order):

  • Changing how the FBI operates. According to the plan, the agency is "completely out of control," and the next conservative administration should restore its reputation by stopping investigations that are supposedly "unlawful or contrary to the national interest." Also, the document calls for legislation that would eliminate term limits for the FBI's director and require that person to answer to the president.
  • Eliminating the Department of Education. The plan explicitly proposes, "Federal education policy should be limited and, ultimately, the federal Department of Education should be eliminated." The report also calls for bans on so-called "critical race theory" (CRT) and "gender ideology" lessons in public schools, asking for legislation that would require educators who share such material to register as sex offenders and be imprisoned.
  • Defunding the Department of Justice. Additionally, the document proposes prosecuting federal election-related charges as criminal, not civil, cases. Otherwise, the document says, "[Voter] registration fraud and unlawful ballot correction will remain federal election offenses that are never appropriately investigated and prosecuted."
  • Reversing Biden-era policies attempting to reduce climate change. The document's authors call for increasing the country's reliance on fossil fuels and withdrawing from efforts to address the climate crisis — such as "offices, programs, and directives designed to advance the Paris Climate Agreement."
  • Stopping cybersecurity efforts to combat mis- and disinformation. The document recommends the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency to stop its efforts to curtail online propaganda campaigns, arguing the federal government should not make judgment calls on what's true and what isn't.
  • Changing immigration policies. Authors want the federal government to deprioritize DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), the program that temporarily delays the deportation of immigrants without documentation who came to the U.S. as children; phase out temporary work-visa programs that allow seasonal employers to hire foreign workers; impose financial punishments on so-called "sanctuary cities" that do not follow federal immigration laws, and divert tax dollars toward security at America's border with Mexico. (While the Biden campaign claims Project 2025 calls for "ripping mothers away from their children" at the border, there's no explicit mention of separating families. Rather, it calls for stronger enforcement of laws governing the detainment of immigrants with criminal records and restricting an existing program that tracks people in deportation proceedings instead of incarcerating them. In some cases, those changes could possibly play a role in border control agents detaining a parent while their child continues with immigration proceedings.)
  • Restricting access to abortion. The plan wants the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to stop promoting abortion as health care. Additionally, Project 2025 recommends the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) to stop promoting, and approving, requests for manufacturing abortion pills. "Alternative options to abortion, especially adoption, should receive federal and state support," the document states.
  • Removing LGBTQ+ protections. The plan calls for abolishing the Gender Policy Council, a Biden-created department within the White House that aims to "advance equity in government policy for those who face discrimination." Also, the proposal wants the federal government to remove terms such as "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" from records and policies, as well as rescind policies that prohibit discrimination on the basis of "sexual orientation, gender identity, transgender status, and sex characteristics."
  • Cutting ties completely with China. For instance, the document advocates for restricting people's access to TikTok because of its China-based parent company; prohibiting Confucius Institutes, cultural institutions at colleges and universities funded by the Chinese government, and blocking other Chinese entities from partnering with U.S. companies.
  • Reversing protections against discrimination in housing. The Biden campaign emails reference a portion of the document that calls for repealing a decades-old policy—strengthened under Biden—that attempts to prevent discrimination and reduce racial disparities in housing. Project 2025 also recommends making it easier to sell off homes used for public housing — a benefit to real estate developers — but result in fewer cheap housing options for poor and low-income families.

Here's a PDF of the full report:

(www.project2025.org)

Changing Federal Job Classifications

To execute the above-listed objectives, the roughly 1,000-page document calls for a federal government operated by political appointees equipped to "carry out the President's desires."

Put another way, Roberts, president of the Heritage Foundation, said in a July 2023 interview with The New York Times that Project 2025 leaders want to dismantle independent federal agencies that do not answer to the president. Then, they want to fill positions with people who subscribe to conservative politics — including jobs that are currently merit-based hires, not politically appointed.

Under the current system, the federal government's administrative sector is made up of two employee groups: political appointees and career civil servants. When a new administration takes over the Oval Office, it selects similarly minded people to fill high-ranking positions (political appointees), and those people leave the jobs when a new president takes over. According to the Brookings Institution, a public policy think tank, around 4,000 political appointees run the executive branch.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of positions that run day-to-day operations are hired through a merit-based system — that is, a hiring process that is designed to prioritize applicants' specialized expertise or experience, not their personal beliefs or affiliations. Those people are career civil servants.

Project 2025 proposes turning up to 50,000 career civil servant jobs into politically appointed positions.

To do that, Project 2025 wants the president to reissue Schedule F, a Trump-era executive order that Biden rescinded when he became president. Generally speaking, the order would recategorize career civil servants into at-will employees, giving higher-level workers the ability to terminate employment for any reason without warning and fill those jobs with new people.

Additionally, Project 2025 recommends revamping the existing appeals process for employee dismissals, arguing the current system prevents managers from firing or hiring the right employees.

The plan also proposes a freeze on hiring top-career civil service positions at the beginning of the administration. By doing so, the plan argues, the new administration will prevent today's administration's leaders (later on "outgoing" political appointees) from "burrowing-in"— that is, hiring left-leaning career bureaucrats across federal agencies for the purpose of undermining the next president.

Keeping Track of Potential Employees' Opinions

In addition to expanding government leaders' abilities to hire and fire at will, Project 2025 calls for a new federal database to gather information on potential new hires. The database contains people's answers to questions on social issues, such as abortion and immigration, allowing for department leaders to easily fill job vacancies with applicants who lean conservative.

"Our current executive branch was conceived of by liberals for the purpose of promulgating liberal policies," JohnMcEntee, who is leading Project 2025's personnel database project, told The New York Times in mid-2023, citing then-U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's (who was a Democrat) 1930s New Deal as the last major reorientation of the government. "There is no way to make the existing structure function in a conservative manner. It's not enough to get the personnel right. What's necessary is a complete system overhaul."

By submitting resumes and answering questionnaires, applicants sign up to be vetted by Project 2025 leaders. According to the questionnaire, participants answer whether they "agree" or "disagree" with statements such as, "Life has a right to legal protection from conception to natural death," and "The U.S. should increase legal immigration."

If the participants pass that screening, Project 2025 intends to recommend them to department leaders for hiring. (We are unable to determine what would happen with applicants' data if Trump does not win the 2024 election, or if his potential administration does not want to use it.)

Project 2025 leaders partnered with technology company Oracle to set up the system, according to The New York Times. Several thousand potential recruits had applied, as of April 2023.

Former presidents have established similar systems, including Barack Obama, according to Kevin Kosar, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a center-right public policy think tank. "They [The Obama administration] created a massive online jobs bank, where you could apply."

Also, during Obama's first term (January 2009 - January 2017), his administration required extensive vetting of applicants for high-ranking, politically appointed positions. Like Project 2025's program, that process included a questionnaire. That form asked participants to elaborate on past public statements, social media posts and potential conflicts of interests, as well as share things about their personal lives, like whether they own guns. (We found no evidence of the Obama administration circulating a similar questionnaire during his second term.)

Asked about that Obama-era questionnaire, a Biden aide said it was not comparable to Project 2025's system. The latter was a "loyalty test" to Trump, the aide said, while Obama's survey was more of a background check.

Trump Hasn't Publicly Endorsed Project 2025

Many former Trump administration members and current allies are working on the initiative.

For example, the Center for Renewing America (CRA) — a think tank that formed in 2021 with ties to Trump through its founder, Russell Vought — is a "coalition partner." Vought was the director of the Office of Management and Budget when Trump was president. Should Project 2025 be a part of the next presidential administration, Vought will be in charge of implementingits proposals, according to Politico. (In November 2023, The Washington Post reported he was in regular contact with Trump and could be a candidate for a high-ranking position in his potential future administration.) Also, Vought is policy director for the 2024 Republican National Convention's Platform Committee.

Reportedly, some people affiliated with Project 2025 are assisting Trump's reelection campaign behind the scenes.

What's Project 2025? Unpacking the Pro-Trump Plan to Overhaul US Government (2)

(The groups that conceptualized, or are currently pushing, Project 2025 include a number of former Trump administration members and current allies.)

However, in terms of public-facing actions, Trump hasn't officially connected himself to the initiative. In speeches at campaign rallies and interviews, he hasn't mentioned Project 2025, and, on July 5, 2024, he attempted to publicly distance himself by posting on Truth Social (his social media site):

I know nothing about Project 2025. I have no idea who is behind it. I disagree with some of the things they're saying and some of the things they're saying are absolutely ridiculous and abysmal. Anything they do, I wish them luck, but I have nothing to do with them.

Trump's campaign is at the very least aware of the initiative. Campaign officials once told Politico Project 2025's goals to restructure government, which are outlined in a publicly available document, indeed align with Trump's campaign promises.

But in a November 2023 statement, the Trump campaign said: "The efforts by various non-profit groups are certainly appreciated and can be enormously helpful. However, none of these groups or individuals speak for President Trump or his campaign." Without naming Project 2025, they said all policy statements from "external allies" are just "recommendations."

Concurrently, in an interview withthe conservative outlet The Daily Wire, a Project 2025 representative said the Trump campaign and Project are separate "for now."McEntee, a former Trump staffer and leader of Project 2025's personnel database project, said:

I think the candidate and the campaign need to keep their eye on the ball. They need to be totally focused on winning. We're totally focused on what happens after [...] Obviously, there will need to be coordination and the president and his team will announce an official transition this summer, and we're gonna integrate a lot of our work with them.

That said, given overlap between Project 2025's proposals and the Trump campaign's agenda, political analysts and the Biden campaign believe the coalition's effort is a good indication of Trump's vision for a second term. Among the similarities are proposals to change how the administration fills tens of thousands of government jobs and overhaulthe DOJ. According to The Heritage Foundation's own reporting, Trump adopted and seriously considered about two-thirds of the organization's policy prescriptions in 2018, for example.

In an interview with Snopes, James Singer, a Biden campaign spokesperson, said:

Project 2025 is the extreme policy and personnel playbook for Trump's second term that should scare the hell out of any American voter. The Trump team's pathetic denials fall flat when Project 2025 staff and leadership are saying they are connected to the Trump team, leading the RNC policy platform and part of Trump's debate prep, campaign, and inner circle.

But the extent to which Project 2025 leaders and Trump campaign officials are communicating is unclear. According to Kosar, at the American Enterprise Institute, no one outside of the two circles knows how closely they're working together. "[What] is the level of coordination? We have no idea."

From the view of Cecilia Esterline, an immigration research analyst at the Niskanen Center, a think tankwith libertarian-right roots, Project 2025 is a good indicator of Trump's plans for a potential second term. "Given the people involved putting their names on this and the author portions of this report, and the success of [past] implementation, it's a good indicator of where Trump is at."

The Forces Behind Project 2025

Heritage Foundation President Kevin Roberts launched Project 2025 in April 2022, a few months before Trump officially announced his reelection campaign.

Since then, the number of groups backing the initiative has grown. As of now, Project 2025's advisory board and so-called "coalition partners" include: the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI), a nonprofit that aims to connect conservative applicants to congressional jobs and is led by Trump's former chief of staff, Mark Meadows; Turning Point USA, a far-right student advocacy group that is led by Charlie Kirk; America First Legal, a legal advocacy group that supports conservative-backed lawsuits and is led by Trump stalwart Stephen Miller. (According to a June 2024 Politico report, Miller was part of private meetings with Trump to help him prepare for upcoming televised debates against Biden.)

Furthermore, in May 2024, Reuters interviewed what the news outlet described as unnamed Trump allies working on a plan to restructure the Department of Justice (DOJ) and fill currently nonpartisan jobs there with people who identify as conservatives. While the allies group wasn't named, Reuters reported it was tied to Project 2025.

Lastly, many authors of the roughly 1,000-page document outlining Project 2025's policy proposals have connections to Trump. They include Ben Carson, William Perry Pendley, Jonathan Berry, Diana Furchtgott-Roth, Rick Dearborn, Adam Candeub, Ken Cuccinelli, Mandy Gunasekara, Dennis Dean Kirk, Gene Hamilton, Christopher Miller, Bernard L. McNamee, Mora Namdar, Peter Navarro, Roger Severino, Paul Dans, Kevin Roberts, among others.

These Types of Pre-Election Efforts Aren't Uncommon

In the months or years before U.S. presidential elections, it's routine for nonprofit research groups to prepare plans for a potential presidential transition, according to Landon Storrs, a political history professor at the University of Iowa.

And, according to Kosar, numerous think tanks want Trump's ear as he plans his potential return to the White House. "Whenever there is a new executive coming into the White House, [many] groups are trying to get in there."

According to the Heritage Foundation's website, the organization mostly operates on individual donations and does not take money from the government. However, how exactly it divvies up its money for Project 2025 was unclear. The New York Times reported Project 2025 was a $22 million operation.

Project 2025 authors built their proposals on an idea popular during former President Ronald Reagan's time: the "unitary executive theory." That's the belief that Article II of the U.S. Constitution gives the president complete power over the federal bureaucracy and all levels of government report to him.

In 1980, the Heritage Foundation developed similar policy prescriptions for Reagan, who was a presidential candidate at the time. Some of the organization's recommendations aligned with Reagan's campaign promises, and, when he later assumed office, he put the ideas to action. Heritage once described its effort as putting "the conservative movement and Reagan on the same page."

However, according to Politico, the present-day initiative by the Heritage Foundation was more "ambitious" than any other such proposal. The New York Timessaid Project 2025 was operating at "a scale never attempted before in conservative politics." Its efforts are a contrast to the 1930s Democrat-led New Deal under then-U.S. President Roosevelt,which gave the federal government an unprecedented role in social and economic affairs on the belief that it would get the country out of the Great Depression.

Critics' Logistical Concerns, Worries

If some of Project 2025's ideas turn into formal policy recommendations or laws, experts in government and history have concerns over how they could be implemented. Such drastic changes would come with big logistical hurdles and have a ripple effect on agencies overseeing day-to-day governance, several such experts said.

For example, Project 2025's proposal to reclassify tens of thousands of federal workers' positions — that is, change career bureaucrats into jobs that can be politically appointed — would have widespread effects, according to Storrs, of the University of Iowa. She said:

When [Project 2025's] intention is to install officials based on their loyalty to the president rather than on their qualifications, [the result] is even more damaging to effective administration. [...] The President already has authority over who heads the agencies. But below them, people are simply trying to collect taxes, get social security checks out — there is a lot that shouldn't be disrupted.

Kosar, of the American Enterprise Institute, expressed concern over skills required for jobs that aren't currently appointed. "These positions have a serious degree of expertise attached. You can't just plug in a private sector businessman into the department of transportation. It's going to be a challenge to match the people and the competencies and the expertise."

Esterline, the Niskanen Center analyst, said with presidential administrations changing every four to eight years, government agencies rely on the expertise of continually employed civil servants — employees with institutional knowledge — to make the transitions as smooth as possible. "[If] we suddenly disrupt that balance of political appointees to civil servants, it will be a much rougher transition."

Among other aspects of Project 2025, Esterline is attempting to raise the alarm on its prescriptions for specific regulatory changes. "[Project 2025] is a meticulous outline of how they will crumple the system simultaneously through minute changes."

Meanwhile, some former government officials are particularly concerned about the initiative's plans for the DOJ and FBI. For instance, in an interview for The Guardian, Michael Bromwich, a former DOJ inspector general, said the proposals to turn the departments into "instruments" to fulfill Trump's political agenda "should send shivers down the spine of anyone who cares about the rule of law."

Overall, critics including legal experts and former government employees have zeroed in on Project 2025's goal to give the executive branch more power, describing it as a precursor to authoritarianism.

However, the initiative's push to increase executive power may be part of a deeper trend in American politics, Peter Strauss, a professor at Columbia Law School, said in alectureon Faculti, a research video platform. He said momentum to increase executive authority has been steadily increasing over many presidential administrations:

We have seen in the United States a steadily expanding presidential claim of authority to control not only tenure but also ordinary acts of government. This has been happening at least since the presidency of Ronald Reagan and it reached a peak with President Trump and his first term, and he's promised that he's going back there.

Our Reporting

For this report, we repeatedly tried to interview representatives of the Heritage Foundation — the conservative think tank that conceptualized Project 2025 — as well as the Trump campaign and other supporters of the effort. All either declined to be interviewed or did not respond to our inquiries.

For example, we reached out to dozens of groups on Project 2025's advisory board — a collection of groups under the Heritage Foundation's oversight that have co-signed the effort, given feedback on its proposals or promoted it to government officials. The groups include Center for Renewing America, Turning Point USA, The American Conservative, andAmerican Cornerstone Institute. We asked the organizations about the nature of their involvement in the initiative, proposals they support, and more. As of this writing, none has responded.

After we initially reached out to the Heritage Foundation for this story, a spokesperson responded asking for more specifics on our reporting. We responded with key points, including requests to comment on project leaders' communication with former U.S. President Donald Trump, concerns from legal experts about the initiative's proposed changes and general criticism. The Heritage Foundation did not respond to that message. Later, after informing the organization of our writing deadline, a spokesperson said no one was available.

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Updates

July 5, 2024: This post was updated to include Trump's July 5, 2024, post on Truth Social.

By Nur Ibrahim

Nur Nasreen Ibrahim is a reporter with experience working in television, international news coverage, fact checking, and creative writing.

By Aleksandra Wrona

Aleksandra Wrona is a reporting fellow for Snopes, based in the Warsaw area.

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What's Project 2025? Unpacking the Pro-Trump Plan to Overhaul US Government (2024)

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